Historical Knowledge and Quantitative Analysis: The Case of the Origins of Proportional Representation
59 Pages Posted: 3 Sep 2009
Date Written: September 1, 2009
Political scientists commonly draw on history but less frequently read actual historians carefully. This limited engagement with historians, and with contextual information 15 more generally, contributes to a loss of historical knowledge that can undermine the validity of quantitative analysis. This paper makes this argument by means of an examination of the qualitative evidence underlying the important quantitative arguments about the origins of electoral systems advanced by Carles Boix and by Thomas Cusack, Torben Iversen, and David Soskice. The paper explores how their respective attention to historical knowledge 20 affects the quality of their data, the plausibility of their hypotheses and, ultimately, the robustness of their statistical findings. It also analyzes how such knowledge sheds new light on the causal direction between institutions and their economic effects.
Keywords: Methodology, History, Quantitative Analysis, Institutional Choice, Electoral Systems, Origins of Institutions
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